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Public meeting will address pedestrian safety on Wards Road

October 15, 2008 : Teresa Dunham

Liberty University students won’t have to dodge cars to cross one of Lynchburg’s most congested roads in the future.

The city of Lynchburg will hold a brainstorming session on Thursday, Oct. 23, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Liberty University’s Reber-Thomas Dining Hall to help formulate a bicycle and pedestrian plan for Wards Road. Students and the general public are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts.

“I’ve seen people sprint across Wards Road with two bags in tow, trying to beat a car,” said Lee Beaumont, director of auxiliary services for LU. “You see students right now running across traffic. You see them climbing over railroad tracks, trying to get to the shops on Wards Road. There is no contiguous pedestrian sidewalk. There’s no crossing signal. It’s a hazard in many ways.

Despite the traffic, students are drawn to Wards Road for the number of restaurants and shopping opportunities within walking distance — businesses such as Wal-Mart, Target, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, Buffalo Wild Wings, Olive Garden and Ruby Tuesday.

LU plans on constructing a pedestrian tunnel behind the Vines Center in early 2009 to help students avoid the railroad tracks. The tunnel will come out near Panera Bread, Beaumont said, but it won’t take students across Wards Road where many of the stores are located.

To help students trek safely, the city is stepping forward to provide pedestrian and bike access across traffic.

Lynchburg hired a firm to study pedestrian needs on Wards Road and then formulate a plan for crosswalks, signals, bike paths or any other methods of making the area pedestrian-friendly — and the brainstorming session on campus next week will allow Liberty students to give their input.

“The students are really going to be able to impact how it will look. Their voice will matter a whole lot if they participate,” said Beaumont.

Making Wards Road pedestrian-friendly will promote business there, he said, adding that the city’s efforts are greatly appreciated.

“The city is taking time and money to do something that is primarily going to benefit the LU students. And the university is spending a lot of time and money to put in all these tunnels [both vehicular and pedestrian], so I think it’s really incumbent on our students to do their civic duty and participate,” Beaumont said.